Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Toddler

She pushes and she pulls 


the world is open for business and she wants it all.

Strong; because it hasnt occurred to her to be anything else quite yet,

Fragile; this child is made of human and she hasn't learned how to mask it.

Fraustrated; shes thwarted and her back is arched, she shouts her fury loud twisting in her wrath.


Brave; eyes big, next thing in her sights, head first leaping into thin air.


Silly; a keen sense for the ridiculous already,  tights on her head rushing around shouting and trailing blessed laughter in her wake. 

Bright; Lit up with all the new information shes processing every day, scrutinizing every leaf and stone for hidden meaning.










Independant and so very needy, a perfect contradiction with my eyes and his mouth, his sense of humour, my stubbornness and so much that belongs only to her. 

Clara has accelerated into toddlerhood since Sylvie arrived. Sometimes shes so big and beautiful and clever that I can't stand it. 




During those moments I think I'll explode with the sheer force of pride for every new word, every independent step she makes into the world, every time she chooses to wrap her chubby arms round my neck when she could be doing something else.

and then there are the other toddler moments,

The dark ones.

The times when she goes stiff as a board and screams her lungs out in the library because I've tried to put her in the pushchair.

Or when she hits her baby sister then looks at me agog for my response.

Even the times she wakes from her nap and cries inconsolably for half an hour regardless of everything I do to try and make it better.

Those times I feel hot shame and fraustration at how little I can really control this person that we have made and nurtured .

She is making the moves towards independence, there's no mistaking it. Shes bold this daughter of mine, she asks for what she wants in life (okay sometimes she screams for it!) It's scary and wonderful watching her become who shes going to be, sometimes I feel utterly helpless in the face of a person so separate to me and yet still so dependant. 


for the first time since she was born I've really questioned myself with how I'm responding to her behaviour, I'm aware that these are the moments that can mark a person emotionally and I want so much to parent her well. 


I'm discovering that being a parent to a toddler really brings me to the end of myself. I could weep with fraustration and then circle all the way back to rapturous joy again, sometimes all in the space of ten minutes!
                                                     
Though I believe that strong boundaries are very important I also have to recognise that she is beginning to make her own decisions, and these need a certain amount of respect. Shes testing the waters in every sense and she needs the space to do that, though she also needs 
to learn that actions have consequences. 

It's so tempting to want to control a toddler but  I am learning that she needs me to have the strength to step back sometimes, to let her be herself. Of course to still say 'No' when I need too but also for that to not be the only thing that I'm conveying to her. 

So there you have it, these are my days at the moment, silliness and kisses, fun and tantrums; Clara Evangeline in all her wonderful, frustrating complexity. 
                                             

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Sylvie Joy


Sylvie Joy is here! She arrived on the 14th of July and she is a delight complete with dark curly hair and dimples (!)

Sylvie means 'From the woods' and of course Joy is self explanatory. It seems to suit her which is a relief as Matt and I tend to take a LONG time to agree on names!

As I write Sylvie is snuggled up on my chest, her favourite place to sleep, I am shattered from feeding her every couple of hours at night then having to find the energy the next day to play with Clara, but it's also a lot of fun.

Speaking of the toddler, she is taking it all like a champion. Obviously she is internally processing the huge changes that a new sibling brings, this has come out in the occasional tantrum and even a few attempts to hit her baby sis.






 But generally she really seems to love Sylvie, she dashes into our room shouting 'BUBUB' every morning and wants to cover her in kisses all.the.time.  


Sylvie came into the world in a delightfully uncomplicated way;

I started to have contractions at midnight on the 13th and refused to go to hospital until about 5am as I wasn't sure that they were real as they didn't hurt very much and weren't very long. I had a long bath and lit some candles.

 By 5am Matt wanted to head in and so we called a friend to watch the (still sleeping) Clara and headed into the maternity hospital, using the tens machine for a bit of pain relief.
When we got there I was examined straight away and they told me that I was already 8cm dilated, she could feel that the waters were about to go and told me 'This baby will be here very soon!' 

I obviously didn't believe her in the slightest and asked about the possibility of an epidural which me and Matt had previously agreed was a good idea given that we no were no longer under any illusions about how bloody painful childbirth is!! 

I was assured that there was no need as baby would be here so soon, so I suspiciously agreed to stay on in the midwife led unit with the promise of gas and air (lovely).
As it happened the midwife knew what she was talking about and after only a couple of contractions pushing on the birth ball my waters went, I still can't believe how easy this part of labour was compared to my labour with Clara, the contractions were shorter and less painful but obviously way more efficient - crazy. 

The midwife then got me to lie on the bed to push as we were trying to avoid a similar tear to the one I had last time. 

Pushing still hurt like all hell (obviously) this was not helped when my gas and air was confiscated as I had become a bit obsessed! Soo I birthed that childs head fully conscious and very much in the room,

Ouch. 

However there was a lot less screaming than last time and generally I felt very calm and a lot more present. It also helped that I was only pushing for half an hour before little Sylvie Joy emerged; 7lbs 11oz of squirmy real person.



Wow.    

                      
I had forgotten the way that a brand new human smells after they are placed naked and bloody on your chest, world startled and umblically bound. The scent of the womb, strangely earthy, weirdly familiar, all darkness and growth. To me, in that moment it was the smell of relief. In the days following the birth I could still recall it but now two weeks on Its going all misty. 

I had a second degree tear so had a painful hour or so getting examined and stitched up, but I was rewarded with a shower, toast and tea as Sylvie figured out breastfeeding. It was a rather lovely afternoon. Then we were discharged and got home in time for Claras bedtime! 

                                       
So there you have it! Another person in the world. And what a precious person she is. I am very much looking forward to getting to know her as she becomes who shes going to be :)


                                             

                                   






Thursday, 22 June 2017

Life Happening All Around

The Gang
It's been a bit busy recently.

It was a short term, finished with final exams for Matt (he got a 2:1, clever boy!)

The day term ended we came down to Shropshire for a two week church placement. Brilliant experience for Matt but again very busy with a commute and working at the weekend.

We've been staying at my parents and I hosted 25 wonderful old friends last weekend, including room prep and catering. this coming weekend we are doing it all again for an extended family reunion.

Initially we had planned to book in a couple of nights away just the two of us before the baby arrived but as time had moved forwards, the schedule has become more squeezed and the baby has become more imminent, we've had to let go of the notion. So no 'Baby Moon' for us.
Clara is wonderful and full on, doing wobbly Bambi walking and with 2 new molars making themselves felt, and as if it wasn't busy enough Matt has a meeting with the bishop on Monday morning! Currently where he goes I follow because I don't want to get stuck up labour creek without a birth partner, so we're off to Doncaster en famile. 
Did I also mention that I am tired? Tired in an almost done making a baby, and still carrying around the other one bone shatteringly exhausted kind of way.

So we will finally head back to Cambridge on Monday where (hopefully!) We will have a little time before the arrival to readjust and do nothing.

But despite all of this craziness I wanted to share about some of the Grace, rest and cause for celebration in the spaces around me that I have loved in this time. 
The beautiful countryside here is a rest for my eyes and ears. Trees rivers cows and the incredible views all bring me so much joy.

The old friends its a been a privilege to catch up with. Also my best friend delivered a gorgeous baby boy last week and my heart is so full for their family.

The river is a beautiful cooling space where Clara and I have both found wonder. My sister in law even spotted an otter this past weekend!

The space to have my first haircut in a year while mum watched Clara.

Finally Dad put up some hammocks in a shady spot and this evening after Clara had gone to bed as I eased me and my wriggly bump into one of them I was able to completely relax for a while. Leafy chapel over my head peace in my heart and a merciful river breeze to cool me.

I have chosen to take that one moment of peace in exchange for a million frantic ones. I think that restoration comes in these smallest of small moments and should not be missed.

I can't take it back to Cambridge with me (hammock in the birth plan anyone?!) But will try and keep this peace as we go. 

Monday, 22 May 2017

Retreat

This past week I Travelled up to Stirling in Scotland to visit one of my oldest and best friends. She is due her first baby in June almost exactly a month before my little squidge so life is about to get a bit more hectic! Matt thoughtfully arranged the visit as an early birthday present for me, so we could enjoy some retreat time together.

how could I possibly
leave this buttercup destroying angel?! :p
I was very ready for some solo time, but as the plane took off I realised that I had some serious reservations. I knew Clara was being expertly looked after by her grandparents and Matt was available if needed, but this was my baby, without me for the first time in her whole life! It was a very weird feeling.  

Becoming a mother and spending a year as that babys primary caregiver changes you. It necessitates a complete shift in how you perceive and define yourself. This isn’t a bad thing but it is possible to loose sight of who you are in amidst all the changes. 

I think some time away from the baby is an essential part of establishing healthy boundaries and retaining an identity outside of motherhood.

So with this in mind I managed to quell my irrational desire to exit the plane post haste and hurry back to my baby, which was just as well because both her and me had the time of our lives! She had the undivided attention of her devoted Grandparents and didn’t so much as whimper the 2 days I was gone. 

Meanwhile I had the luxurious opportunity to have (many) uninterrupted conversations, lounge in the sunshine, and enjoy at least one night of uninterrupted sleep! Matt even booked for Emma and I to go on retreat to this amazing centre….


Time to think and pray and journal was so welcome and the heated indoor pool we had to ourselves for the afternoon certainly didn’t hurt!

 As I was praying and chatting with Emma I kept being drawn back to the idea of who I am in this season of life, its easy to feel overwhelmed and I found myself feeling pretty tearful as I considered the reality and responsibility of having two kids so close in age. I wrote this poem which ended up being a great starting point for more reflection..


 I am constant vigilance,
I am the ears in the night,
the eyes in the day, 

I am provider of needs,
Port for the storms
Cocoon for the unborn.

Counter of kicks, hics and sticking out bits,
I am planner, pre-empter and worse case cuddler.

I am exhausted,

I am mother.

At first I couldn’t read it back through without feeling overwhelmed and tearful, but I felt like God was challenging me to read it back to myself out loud several times over. By the fifth or sixth time I read through what I had written my perspective had a totally changed! 

I felt like it became a direct revelation of the mother heart of God, a clear picture that I am not alone on this journey of motherhood but that he enters into it wholeheartedly with us. He too is creator and therefore mother.

Who are you in this season God?

I am constant vigilance,
I am the ears in the night,
the eyes in the day, 

I am provider of needs,
Port for the storms
Cocoon for the unborn.

Counter of kicks, hics and sticking out bits,
I am planner, pre-empter and worse case cuddler.

I am God,

I am mother.


I will end with some pictures of me and Emmie. We are friends who have journeyed together for a very long time in all sorts of different circumstances. There is no sweeter balm than the laughter that old friends share and I am always refreshed and inspired in her company. I am so proud of who she is now as she juggles all the complexities of writing up her PHD and engages with impending motherhood. What a joy it is to share this journey with her.  




              

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

One

Well this joyous wonderful complicated and amazing girl of mine is a year old today!


I am an incredibly biased parent and could write pages on her many remarkable attributes and about what an unbelievably fantastic and devastatingly hard year this has been,

However as I remember this time a year ago I thought it might be good to share her birth story.
We have just started the new series of MasterChef, this time last year it had become something of an obsession with Matt and I as we patiently awaited those first pangs of labour….

Clara was eight days late, I had hoped for a prompt arrival and was starting to get a bit annoyed so sweet and much needed distraction came in the form of MasterChef. We watched completely agog as the amateur chefs created sumptuous dishes to impress the judges, Matt had the sofa to himself as I was confined to the purgatory of bouncing on a bright pink ball in the hopes of coaxing labour out of its shell.

I remember reflecting on the weirdness of the birth process, of feeling so fed up with being huge that you begin to will your body to cause you enormous pain, there was an almost addictive mix of Adrenalin, excitement and fear as I pictured what was to come.

On the 9th April we had driven out to the beautiful American Cemetery on the outskirts of Cambridge as I had heard a rumour that it had steps – I cut a strange figure that day as I walked up and down among the gravestones 30 or so times willing the activity to get the baby moving.

So when nothing had happened two days later I was pretty sure that the baby had decided to stay on the inside forever, but at 2pm on the 11th April I started getting regular contractions like some kind of uncomfortable miracle!

It was fairly non painful at this point, standard waves of period like pain. We called my mum as I was keen she was around for the birth and she had a few hours to drive to get to us. A memorable moment was some charity collectors coming to the door midway through a contraction – Not now – my wife is in labour! proved an extremely effective deterrent.

I used the famous pink ball to brace myself against also a TENS machine and a hot water bottle which seemed to work quite nicely.

As I was easing into the bath I felt like my waters had broken and we made a hilarious and slightly hysterical call to the midwifery unit – later on (much later) when they finally did break we really laughed that we had thought that was it.

Mum arrived and we had some food and headed to bed. I didn’t really sleep mainly because I was so excited and at around 2am my contractions were close enough together that we called the unit and headed into the hospital.

The midwife showed us to a room but suggested that Matt and I go and find some indoor stairs to walk up and down to get things moving – (because we all know how easy it is to climb stairs whilst attached at the hip to a giant pink birthing ball!!) the unit was deserted and at one point a porter casually cycled past on his way somewhere, only in Cambridge would the porters cycle inside a hospital!

I was contracting mainly on my knees braced against the ball so by 7:am I was keen for a change and asked to get into the birthing pool in our room. This was lovely, over the next few hours the contractions ramped up a gear and I was doing some nice breathing and visualising all sorts of random things like trains in tunnels and waves on beaches – Matt thought I was loosing it but it seemed to help. I was also plied with iced tea and multigrain bars for energy.

At around 9:00am I asked to try the gas and air which I liked…a lot. It didn’t take the pain away as much as take me away from the pain. During this time I thought Matt was the most hilarious person on the planet, which did his ego a world of good.

By around 11:00 the midwife was keen to examine me for the first time (the Rosie birth center where I gave birth has a very hands off approach) so I came out of the water and lay on the bed.
This was when things got real.

I started having big mean angry contractions and my waters literally EXPLODED forth from me (Matt was down the business end and got soaked) so I guess this is the point they would call transition – I certainly transitioned from a calm and collected earth mama into a screaming banshee.
I think the position on my back probably didn’t help but the pain meant I couldn’t even think about moving. The Gas and air became a constant companion as the contractions reached a new level.

I was screaming mindlessly through each contraction. I couldn’t control this noise and it didn’t really feel like me at all. This was pretty terrifying but at some point I became aware that my body was doing what it was meant to be doing and that somehow all that noise was helping to get my baby out.

This is the bit that I don’t like to remember particularly as it felt indeterminable even though it was in reality about an hour or so. I couldn't believe how painful these contractions were, truly nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale of the agony. During this phase Matt was amazing he seemed to know exactly what I needed and I remember bracing my legs on his shoulder during the contractions.

By this point I had been awake for 24 hours and was totally exhausted. The midwife said it was time to push and invited me onto all fours, I almost sobbed at the very notion as my body felt like it had been through a war and I wasn’t sure it was capable of such heights any more. But I really wanted it all to be over so I dutifully dragged myself up and started the pushing process.

Cue loads of excitement from mum, Matt and the midwife who could all see what was going on and less excitement from me who could certainly FEEL a lot but didn’t have the foggiest what was happening!

It was odd to feel slightly excluded from something that was happening so directly to me.
I must have been pushing for about two hours, it takes a surprisingly long time to get that head down the birth canal! She kept coming down then heading back up again, but eventually with the traditional ‘ring of fire’ feeling (otherwise known as pooing a brick) Clara’s head was born, at exactly 1:55pm on the 12th April.

 In that second she started to cry and for a moment she was just a little crying head! I obviously couldn’t see this but can picture it clearly as it is such a funny image, I was feeling sheer relief after the crazy pain of birthing her head. Then the rest of her wriggled out and she was spellbindingly wonderfully real, straight on to my chest where I drank her all in.

So there you have it folks, it was a wonderful, painful as hell, straightforward natural birth.

(I did also sustain a horrible, unlucky 3c tear in the birthing process. That's another story and doesn’t really have a place in this post, so for now I will pause the scene right there)

The midwife asks ‘would dad like to cut the cord?’ dad politely declines looking a little green while nearby a tearful grandmother falls head over heals for her only daughters daughter.

And as for me, well I’m just peachy. My beautiful girl is nestled on my chest, her face is somehow both brand new and entirely familiar, she takes to my breast like a seasoned professional when my mum latches her on. My body sighs into an ‘ah-ha’ moment as I make that seismic change into mother.


What a moment. 


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sisters

We found out that baby #2 is a little girl and my first thought was

 ‘what on earth am I going to do with sisters?!’  
Here she is!


I didn’t have any sisters you see, I had two brothers. the closest cousins to us in age are boys as well so I spent a lot of time in male company as a child.
And I always wanted a sister.

It was my deepest longing for a long long time. I always had this feeling that any loneliness or otherness I felt would be instantly solved by the close kinship involved in sisterhood.
I inhaled books like ‘Little Women’ ‘What Katy did’ and even ‘Sweet Valley Twins’ which all include strong sister relationships. Literature has a lot to answer for when it comes to idealism!

I knew of course in theory that the sister bond was not completely perfect – for one thing my mother and her sister were demonstrably not close at all, yet the utopian idea of another girl to share the stuff of life with was strong.

A lot of my games with friends were about playing at being sisters, and I actually dressed my amenable little brother up in girls clothes on occasion (!) The door was finally closed on my hope for a biological sister when I was told that dad had had a vasectomy. Regardless I stubbornly spent the next year petitioning for our family to consider adoption.

Alas my plea fell on deaf ears and I gradually resigned myself to a sisterless existence.
As an adult I would watch the sister relationships I encountered with great interest. My best friend Emma and her sister Katie were always good to observe. There was an ease and strength to their relationship underpinned by a fierce loyalty to one another, a level of understanding and of belonging to one another that was new to me.

Now I should at this point pause to shout out to brothers – I love mine enormously, they are both wonderful loving and strong men who have formed me hugely, I was very privileged to share my childhood and adolescence with them and I am still glad to call them my friends as well as family. Yes I know what to do with brothers.

But sisters?

I worry that they will fight, that I will have these sky high expectations of their relationship and be disappointed with the reality. I’m worried about the hormonal teenage years (I was a nightmare as a preadolescent) my girls will be very close in age and while hopefully this will lead to firm friendship I am aware that it may also breed competitivity and resentment.  

This morning Clara rested her head on my stomach and the little one was kicking like crazy, I know she could feel her but who knows what she made of it. She’s still too small to confuse with existential truths about where babies grow. But It made me smile to think that she will never remember a world without her little sister in it.

In short I am excited for all the potential there is for these two to be champions of one another. 
Also I am nervous about how as parents we can best nurture strong and secure bonds between our children which will lead to wonderful lifelong connections, whilst allowing them to remain unique individuals.


Answers on a postcard please!


Monday, 13 February 2017

In the Morning


 Matt Gives Clara her breakfast most mornings to give me a blessed extra half an hours sleep, by about 8:00 Clara can be heard shouting for mama so she gets delivered to our bed. The following ensues..

                                                 1) 30 seconds of deliriously happy cuddles



2) Clara gets bored and decides to see how easily my eyelashes can be removed 


3) That didn't go down too well so she looks into how many fingers she can cram into my mouth instead...



                     4) We have a dance party to musically dodgy but very catchy kids worship



Not restful but very fun!


In other news, next week I will officially be halfway through growing baby #2, I have brought a new pair of maternity jeans to celebrate :)